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every dish has a story

Salsa VerdeOct 10, 2011

Salsa verde is the other salsa. Sure, it's pretty and stands out against the array of its generally red-hued cousins. But throughout my life, its sourness kept it from making the cut at salsa bars until about 10 years ago, when I came to my senses. At a Mission District taqueria, I once ordered chile verde on a whim, wooed by its comfort food properties, and I was struck by how that tart tomatillo flavor accentuated the sweetness of the pork. Now that I have revealed my love affair with this meat, it's easy to see why salsa verde is now a staple for our carnitas nights. If raw tomatillos are too sour for your palate, try roasting them before blending to get a mellower, more robust sauce. For the recipe, read on.

CarnitasOct 10, 2011

Ah, pork. Be it crispy golden tonkatsu, softly simmered chile verde, or even a perfectly pan-fried chop, I can't get enough of the other white meat. At the forefront of my porcine passion: carnitas: that tender, flavorful pork crisped at the edges by a hot bath in its own fat. Surprisingly, recipes are bountiful for such a simple dish. I've seen preparations involving braising, roasting, and deep-frying in a backyard turkey fryer, and an exponential number of seasonings, from a healthy dash of salt to a myriad of unconventional ingredients. In the end, it depends on personal preference, and I like my carnitas about as simple as can be with a little Mexican oregano and orange notes to highlight the sweetness of the meat. As for condiments, the more the merrier, but I tend to enjoy pork the most with "green" flavors (tomatillo salsa verde and guacamole), pickled red onions, and salty cotija cheese with homemade corn tortillas, fresh radishes, black beans, and rice on the side. For my recipe, read on.

Chicken Tortilla SoupFeb 24, 2011

They are talking about snow on Twin Peaks this weekend. I know they get a dusting here and there on Mt. Diablo and Mt. Tam, but Walnut Creek and Marin are practically in another country. I can see the top of Twin Peaks from my living room window, so the idea of it being that cold is really hitting close to home, and that means that all I can think of is soup.

Soup is the bubble bath of food. It's inviting, comforting, and luxurious on nights when even the dog would rather hold it than go outside for her whiz. But it's SO cold, you might need jacuzzi jets in that bathtub. And that's where jalapeños come in.

Most recipes for tortilla soup that I have tried are the Amercanized, kind of dumbed-down versions of sopa de lima, a chicken- and lime-based soup that one could do the hard way (I have...it's delicious, but I was exhausted by the time we sat down to eat), but it's actually quite easy to do a simplified version that involves the help of some store-bought chicken broth, canned diced tomatoes, and tortilla chips. Oh, and a nice punch of diced jalapeños. Because those jacuzzi jets are starting to sound really great right about now. For the recipe, read on.

Snapper and Blood Orange CevicheFeb 24, 2011

Two concepts I thought were kind of gross until I ate them:

1. Fish "cooked" in citrus

2. Blood oranges (brought to mind blood sausage, which isn't something you want to picture relating to fruit)

Thank goodness I got over those phobias.

Much to my own disappointment, I have never been too concerned about healthy eating. Dave and I have been blessed with pretty good health, and my low blood pressure and low cholesterol test results just egg me on (no pun intended) to eat more fried and high-sodium foods. Perhaps it's my nagging conscience, perhaps it's my friends who have set and are sticking to noble New Year's resolutions, but I'm starting to feel the guilt. I do try to fix a vegetable with each meal (sometimes it hides among savory, meaty companions), but I'm starting to realize that a few sprigs of broccoli next to a giant rib-eye steak just isn't going to cut it. Dave says we should eat more fish, so with that thought in mind and thanks to a few blood oranges that have been hanging out on my counter, a new dish was born: snapper and blood orange ceviche. Served with some tortilla chips and a bowl of chicken tortilla soup, it's helping me get my guilty conscience back in order. For the recipe, read on.

ChilaquilesAug 26, 2010

I love breakfast for dinner. And I love Mexican food. So Mexican breakfasts for dinner? Simply heaven. Chilaquiles aren't always eaten at breakfast, but top it with an egg, and it makes for a really luxurious way to wake up on a Sunday ... and perhaps the perfect way to top off a busy day.

Read on for the recipe.

TamalesAug 26, 2010

The thing I love about Mexican food is that every dish is one comfort meal on a plate. Take tamales, for example. It's soft, delicately seasoned meat wrapped in pillowy masa, coated in a satiny mole and sprinkled with cheese. Not too different from mom's casseroles, with just a few ingredient substitutions.

Last week, Mom and I took in a Rick Bayless book signing at the Commonwealth Club, and there's only one place you can eat after such an event: the Mission. We hightailed it over to Roosevelt's Tamale Parlor on 24th Street where I savored one of their Famous Round Pork Tamales and washed it down with a fresh strawberry agua fresca. ¡Delicioso!

Braised Short Ribs with Arbol Chiles, White Beans, and MushroomsJul 25, 2010

In the world of comfort food, braised short ribs are about as comforting as it gets. Nothing beats soft, fall-off-the-bone meat nestled in a rich jus of vegetables, red wine and a hefty helping of fresh herbs. Well, almost nothing.

A few subtle substitutions, as I found, make a world of a difference. Add a twinge of heat by swapping tomato paste for lightly toasted arbol chiles. Replacing the red wine with beer helps to tenderize the meat and gives the sauce a more complex, oaty flavor. Now those are some short ribs that will put anyone at ease.

Read on for the recipe.

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